How to Bet on Horses 2024

Betting on horses online is a difficult territory to break into for budding amateurs.

With our quick guide of how to bet on horses, you’ll learn the basic online bet types in horse racing as well as the types of competitions you can expect.

While tempting to bet on the horse with the best name, success depends more on your knowledge. Read about previous performances and prior victories from a jockey and trainer. Find this horse racing information easily online.

Horse racing apps make it easy to do your research on which horse to bet on as well as actually place your bets. We recommend that you find an online horse racing book that you like and make an account.

Now, let’s take a look at the basics of how to bet on horses.

How to Bet on Horses

  1. Read about previous performances from jockeys, horses, and trainers
  2. Select the type of horse race that you will bet on
  3. Decide whether to place a straight wager or an exotic wager
  4. Choose between the online horse betting sites
  5. Make sure to look for a signup bonus when registering
  6. Place your horse race wager
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Types of Horse Races to Bet on

There are a variety of horse racing tracks and competitions, all with jockeys and horses that are specialized for that particular event.

Flat Racing

To begin with the most popular and the most common, as its name indicates flat-racing takes place on even terrain. Due to the lack of hurdles or obstacles on the track, the horses are able to go at their highest speed: Galloping.

Best Example: The Kentucky Derby

Massachusetts Handicap

Steeplechase Racing

Renowned in the UK and Ireland, Steeplechase racing is also known as jump racing because of the hurdles the horses need to leap over to complete the challenge.

It requires a great deal of expertise and is highly impressive to watch.

Best Example: Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

Steeple chase racing

Harness Racing

This less common form of racing is distinctive because a “Jockey” doesn’t actually ride the horse, instead, they are dragged behind it, in a chariot or sulky. Of course, if the horse galloped this would probably result in terrible injuries for the rider so this challenge takes place at a canter.

Best Example: The Hambletonian

Harness racing

Endurance Racing

This less well-known type of racing is characterized by the distance which the horses must run to complete the race. Obviously, this is a much less popular form as it is impossible to watch while sitting in a stadium. It is also more difficult to predict odds when the horses are running over such a long period of time.

The terrain is highly varied and challenging for the horses. Most endurance events last up to 3 days.

Best example: The Iron Horse

Endurance racing

Not all horses are made for fast sprints. Read about the horse breeds that are built for endurance racing.

Horse Racing Glossary

  • Blanket Finish: A finish where all the horses are packed so closely together that it would possible to cover them all with a single blanket
  • Bug: Slang for an apprentice jockey
  • Closer: A horse who leaves the best part to the end. They usually catch up miraculously and overtake in the final stretch of the race
  • Furlong: Unit of measurement often used in horse racing, 1 furlong is 1/8th of a mile or about 200 yards
  • Futurity: A race for 2-year-old horses or juveniles, which they are signed up for when still a foal
  • Oaks: Race designed for 3-year-old Fillies
  • Ranker Outside: A wild card, a horse who is not expected to win 
  • Wire to Wire: In the lead, throughout the race

These are the words and terms you need to know to make sense of what’s going on in the world of horse racing. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’ll get you on your way to making good horse racing bets.

Types of Wagers to Bet on Horses Online

Once you know what type of race to bet on, now you need to decide what wager you want to make. Basically, when betting on horses online there are two broad categories: Straight wagers and Exotic wagers.

However, each one offers its own sub-types of wagers which can be difficult to get to grips with at first.

Sports betting is quite different than horse racing, read about what the most popular sports bets to make are.

The Straight Bet

Despite its name, the straight horse bet is not as straight-forward as it sounds; it covers four types of bets:

  • WIN: betting on the horse to finish first
  • PLACE: betting on a horse either first or second
  • SHOW: betting on a horse to finish either first second or third
  • ACROSS THE BOARD: a combination of PLACE and SHOW which gives the punter higher odds of winning but less payout

Select to Win

Win bet stands for betting on one horse to finish first. As guessing this has low chances, the potential winning sum is quite high.


Show bet is for those who like taking the risk least. This bet will win if the picked horse is in first, second, or third place. As the chance of winning the bet is the highest of these three options, the winning reward is lowest.


Place bet means that the horse you have picked can finish either first or second. In both cases, your bet is a winning one. However, the amount of money that you win becomes reduced.

Now that you know basic bets that you can make, it is time to move on to Exotic bets, which are also known as combination wagers.

The Exotic Bet

Like the distinctive taste of papaya, the Exotic bet is filled with sophistication and complexities. Within this type of bet, you are allowed to bet on several horses.

There are plenty of different exotic bets. These combination wagers allow you to have more fun with horse racing betting online. Additionally, these types of bets can be much more rewarding, as the odds start stacking up. Let’s take a look at the most popular exotic bets that you can make.

  • EXACTA/EXACTOR: placing a wager on two horses finishing first and second in a specific order
  • QUINELLA: betting on two horses finishing first and second in no particular order
  • TRIFECTA/PICK 3: 3 horses finishing first, second and third in a specific order
  • SUPERFECTA: 4 horses finishing first, second, third and fourth, in a very specific order

Across the Board

This bet encompasses all the three above mentioned bets into one. This significantly increases your chances of making a winning bet. In case that the horse finishes 1st, you win all of the three bets. In case the horse you’ve bet on is 2nd, you win two out of three bets. Logically, if the horse is 3rd, you win one bet.


This is a type of bet that many people like taking. It is a prediction of which two horses are going to take the 1st and the 2nd place in the race. If you guess this correctly, you win the bet.


All you have to do with this one is pick 2 horses. As long as both of them end up in 1st or 2nd place, you are going to win. Unlike with exacta, you don’t have to guess which horse is going to take which place.


With this bet, you get to pick three horses and guess which is going to be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in the correct order. If you make the correct combination, you win the bet.


Like with trifecta, your goal is to correctly guess which 4 horses are going to take 1st, 2n, 3rd, and 4th place.

Daily Double

This is an interesting bet that many people like making. Basically, all you have to do is pick horses that are going to win in two separate races. If your prediction is correct, you get to win the bet.

Pick 3 (4, 5, or 6)

Same like with daily double, but instead of picking two winners, you get to pick 3, 4, 5, or 6 horses for this bet. A Pick 5 and 6 has a much larger payout than a Pick 3, for example. Sometimes in 6 or 7 figure range like this woman from Texas.

When is an Online Horse Racing Bet Settled?

Of course, although there is more money to be won with an exotic bet it is harder to win since there are more variables.

Beginners are advised to stick to the straight bets for their first few wagers before braving the exotic once they have broadened their knowledge of the ability of each horse.

The great thing about online horse racing is that wagers are allowed to be quite small, so it is possible to make a great number of low bets.

Knowing when to celebrate is very important. Just because your horse has won does not mean that the race was officially over. Therefore, always wait for the results to be announced, and the game is declared official.

How to Choose a Winning Horse

In most cases, the way to choose a winning horse is to study all the information available in the program.


If you are visiting the track in person this will be handed out to you free of charge in most cases.

Information will also be available if you are betting online, most operators provide comprehensive resources.

Once you have the day’s program in hand, here are the key pieces of information to look out for.

Research the Horse’s Performance

You can easily find a horse’s previous performance online. You will be able to see how they ranked in past races in the contests.

If you can’t find the information readily available on your betting forum of choice, it will be a simple Google search away.

Carefully double-check whether their victories were of the same prestige, the same type, and on the same terrain.

If a horse won first place for a grade 3 steeplechase, it is hard to tell how they will perform at a grade one flat race.

Read the Odds


When scanning the screen to find the best odds, it is obvious that the horse with the lowest odds is the favorite.

Whilst the predictions may be wrong, the odds are a good indication of the horse, jockey and trainer’s previous performance.

If you are unsure about betting for the favorite to win first place, it may be a good idea to place a Quinella on them for a less high-risk bet.

On a basic level, it important to remember that the favorite wins roughly 33% of the time.

Check the Horse’s Behavior on the Day

Angry horse

Whether you are watching on an online live stream or in person, analyzing the horse’s attitude is a good way of double checking if your wager is likely to reap rewards.

Just like a human being, there will be natural fluctuations in the horse’s performance on the day.

The horses are taken around the track for a warm-up before the race starts, at this stage, it is likely that some horses many seem more nervous than others, they may refuse to start or surge forward unpredictably. It is highly likely that horses which are exhibiting these types of behaviors will not perform to the maximum of their ability.

Investigate the Trainer’s Reputation

A good trainer will usually have several horses running in the same competition. You will, therefore, be able to verify their horses’ performance on previous races which have perhaps happened on the same day.

This is often a reliable indicator of performance because many of the variables are similar.

If you notice a winning streak from horses from a particular trainer then you know they are a safe bet.

Learn About the Jockey’s Reputation

Jockey Image

The jockey’s reputation will be independent of the horse. Indeed, prominent jockeys travel widely and ride many successful horses. It is difficult to decide whether a jockey has enjoyed several consecutive victories because of the aptitude of his horse or vice versa.

Horse racing is one of the rare sports where the animal is revered above the human, you will notice that most people will applaud the victorious horse rather than its rider.

Horse racing bettors want to find a good middle ground between the performance of the jockey and the horse. Ultimately, however, it is the latter’s who will carry the victory.

Betting on Horses Online

Betting on horse races online is one of the legal forms of gambling in the US so it is a popular choice for punters. We’ve put together a selection of our favorite horse race betting spots.

Most of these platforms will function through an advanced deposit wagering system which means putting funds into an account before risking that money on a wager. This is the financing system advocated by US law.

How to Bet on Horses Online

Naturally, we can’t advise you on how to make it into the VIP box on the track. But, we can give you basic tips on how to sign up for a membership on an online betting platform. Once you follow the steps below, you can focus on how to bet on horses.

  • Visit the operator online on your mobile or computer and fill in your details
  • Then, make your first wager and receive your sign-up bonus shortly after
  • Next, maximize your bonus by making a high first deposit, check the matched bonus limit
  • Pick the races which you would like to bet on
  • Determine the type of bet which you would like to make
  • Choose the horse/horses you would like to place your wager on
  • Your winnings will be transferred directly into your membership account if you have won

Now that you have learned the basics, check out the US horse racing calendar. Don’t miss out on the top races to bet on. We hope that you are now more familiar with online horse racing betting. Explore, as there are plenty of different horse racing brands where you can register.

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